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PRIMAL FORCE (1999)

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"These are fearless warriors. The Kalahari bushmen admired them for their strength. The Egyptians worshipped them for their intelligence. The Greeks just called them ‘Evil’…."
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primal forceDirector: Nelson McCormick

Starring: Ron Perlman, Mark Kiely, Roxana Zal, Kimberlee Peterson, Guillermo Rios, Richard Fancy, Julian Sedgwick, Jimy Hefner

Screenplay: Michael Thoma

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Synopsis: Frank Brodie (Ron Perlman) is woken from a nightmare by knocking at his door. Scott Davis (Mark Kiely) informs him that a plane has gone down on San Miguel Island, and that he needs his services as a guide. Brodie shuts the door in Davis’s face. Davis enters anyway, and finds himself facing Brodie’s gun. Davis’s companion, Eddie Mendoza (Guillermo Rios), points his own gun at Brodie, and the situation diffuses. When Davis asks again for Brodie’s help, Brodie asks why Davis hasn’t requested official assistance, making reference to "restricted air space". Davis ignores this, telling Brodie that there are "important people" on the island. Brodie replies simply that they’re dead already. Davis says angrily that they’ll go in without Brodie’s help, and he and Eddie leave. On the island, the pilot of the downed plane (Jimy Hefner) assures his passengers, Deutsch (Richard Fancy), a property developer, and Kelsey Cunningham (Kimberlee Peterson), the daughter of the island’s prospective purchaser, that he sent a mayday signal, and that help will already be on its way. He then goes to get water. On his way back, he is grabbed by something, and dragged away…. Meanwhile, an out of practice Brodie shoots at some targets, thinking back to events that took place on San Miguel ten years earlier…. As Davis, Tara Matthews (Roxana Zal), a medical aide, and Stan Kovacs (Julian Sedgwick), a communications and reconnaissance expert, prepare to set out on a boat, Brodie shows up, carrying a cache of guns. He then asks Davis who he is, and learns that he works on "special assignment" for the man who plans to turn the island into a resort. Brodie says grimly that the island was abandoned and put off limits for a reason; that Davis has, in fact, been sent on a suicide mission. The captain of the boat stops some distance from San Miguel, and the rescue party goes ashore in rubber motorboats. At the crash site, Deutsch and Kelsey debate searching for the pilot. At that moment there is a noise nearby, and the two see the pilot being dragged screaming through the bushes. They panic, and run. On the beach, Kovacs sets up a base of operations, while Brodie insists that everyone carry a gun. Tara points out a fenced-off compound and asks Brodie what it is, but he brushes her question away. The party sets out. Eddie finds the stripped bones of an animal; strangely, those of a gazelle; while Tara finds what is unmistakably a human skull. Something moves nearby, and Brodie fires wildly. Up ahead, two huge apes run from their kill, a boar; while more of the animals begin wrecking the downed plane. Kovacs notes that the transmitter is moving. He carries out thermal reconnaissance, reporting that he detects two moving signals – then five – then dozens…. Kelsey and Deutsch return to the plane, looking for a survival kit. They become aware that they are surrounded. Kelsey fires a flare, which the rescue party tracks. Arriving just in time, Brodie fires at the apes, killing one and frightening the others away. He then insists that everyone set out for the beach immediately, but Tara says that Kelsey and Deutsch are in no condition to go further. The group makes camp. Late that night, Tara takes Eddie’s infra-red equipment and sets out on her own, following a map drawn on the back of a photograph. Brodie heads her off her, but she refuses to explain herself. The next morning, Brodie finally reveals to the others the truth about the island, telling them of an experiment gone horribly wrong….

Comments: Generally speaking, I have the list of films I want to review for the site sorted out about a month or six weeks in advance. Every now and then, however, a film comes along that leapfrogs the others in the queue and demands to be reviewed immediately. Sometimes this is a film I’ve been trying to see for ages, and finally get hold of; sometimes it’s something topical; sometimes it’s a film so bad that it simply can’t wait; and sometimes---well, sometimes the whole thing’s as simple as the description in my cable program. Such was the case with Primal Force, which was described thus:

"Plane crash survivors land on an isolated island, only to find it populated by bloodthirsty mutant primates, the result of a science experiment gone wrong."

As some of you know, life has not been particularly kind to me lately; and quite frankly, a large dose of bloodthirsty mutant primates was exactly what I was in the mood for. Not to mention about all I felt up to dealing with. And a "science experiment gone wrong" was just the icing on the cake.

Primal Force opens with a helicopter shot over water, a great deal of MTV-like editing, some ground-level Evil Dead-esque POV shots and someone sitting bolt upright in bed after a nightmare. Great. Thirty seconds in, and the film has already managed to tick me off mightily.

The nightmare-haver is Frank Brodie, played by Ron Perlman. I rather like ol’ Ron, but Primal Force does not, to put it mildly, feature some of his better work. Throughout, he offers us the choice of two expressions: with sunglasses, or without. His delivery of his dialogue is equally varied. At one point he tells Mark Kiely’s Scott Davis, "You ever do that to me again, and I’ll kill you", and speaks with about as much passion as if he were debating with himself over which pair of socks to put on. As keeper of the film’s Deadly Secret, his Brodie suffers suggestive flashbacks, makes ominous yet oblique references to the past, and continually warns the others that "you don’t know what you’re getting into"; does everything, in fact, but actually tell them what they’re getting into. That is, until we reach the forty-five minute mark in this ninety-minute movie; at which point, having no doubt glanced at his watch, he finally gets around to explaining about those bloodthirsty mutant primates. Might have been nice if the others had been told all that before they set out, of course, but whattya gonna do?

After some pointless flourishing of guns and a thoroughly clichéd non-conversation between Brodie and Scott Davis, in which Oblique References fly thick and fast, and which sets up Davis as a devil-may-care, amoral gun for hire (or tries to; shot from certain angles, Mark Kiely looks unsettlingly like Michael Keaton, which doesn’t help), we cut to San Miguel Island to meet some more Primate Bait. There’s the pilot of the downed plane (credited as "the pilot" and played by a Mexican actor, so he’s not long for this world), a sweaty businessman type named Deutsch, and Ms Kelsey Cunningham, daughter of the unseen oil magnate with the rather unlikely plan of turning this frankly unattractive island into a luxury resort. The first three words out of Ms Cunningham’s mouth in this film are "Ex-cuse me!" and "Hel-lo!" It isn’t everyone who could have their audience fantasising about their lingering, bloody death after only three words of dialogue, but Ms Cunningham manages it.

"The pilot" goes for water, and we get our first look at the island’s population of bloodthirsty mutant primates, shown disappointingly early. They are clearly baboons. "The pilot" makes it only a short way from the river where he has been collecting water, before he is attacked by a rampaging POV shot.

After a few more flashback-filled moments with Brodie, we are introduced to the rest of our cannon-fodder: Tara Matthews, an attractive young American who has been "assisting the village doctor"; and Stan Kovacs, all-round electronics expert. The captain of the boat, looking like he can’t wait to get his passengers to the island so that he can take off again in a superstitious panic, leaving them stranded with only a two-person life-raft between the six of them, urges Davis to get underway. At that moment, surprise, Brodie drops in carrying a huge bag full of guns. On the way to the island, he chooses to tell Davis that he’s been "sent on a suicide mission", but refrains from saying anything even slightly helpful; like, for instance, "that island’s covered with bloodthirsty mutant primates". Our four, uh, "heroes" make it to shore, and then it’s time for the fun and games to begin.

Okay, as you’ve doubtless all gathered by now, this is very much your standard "trapped people get picked off one by one by Something Nasty" horror film, albeit one tarted up in science fiction trappings. Since all that most of such films are good for is the fun of picking who’s going to live and who’s going to die, well, fine. I’m nothing if not game. Here are my bold predictions.

Firstly, I’ll go with the Bleeding Obvious. This whole bloodthirsty mutant primate thing reeks of everyone’s favourite inane storyline, the Secret Guv’mint Project to create The Perfect Killing Machine. A major cover-up has been hinted at, which would also fit this scenario.

Secondly, survivors. Well, "the pilot" is already dead, I guess, so I got that one right. Scott Davis’s offsider, Eddie, has the misfortune to be Hispanic. Since member-of-minority-race = dead-man-waiting-to-happen, he’s a goner. Then there’s Deutsch. The fact that he’s – gasp! – a businessman is pretty much enough to seal his fate; but he’s also tried to conceal the apes’ existence from his clients. And just to top it off, he sweats a lot; so that settles that. Stan Kovacs has a British accent, which is never a good thing in these situations. Plus, he seems to be channelling Donald Pleasence. So I’ll write him off as well.

The other four are a bit more problematic. Much as I’d like to see Ms Cunningham having her intestines slowly unspooled, there is a suggestion that her "poor little rich girl" antics are meant to be funny, which would make her the film’s Odious Comedy Relief. Since it never seems to sink in with screenwriters that this is precisely who the audience most wants to see die, this pretty much ensures her survival. Tara Matthews strikes me as A Girl With A Secret. I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that someone close to her – her brother? – was a crusading investigative journalist (aren’t they all?), who went to the island to probe that cover-up, and was Never Seen Again. Tara will both Uncover The Shocking Truth and survive. As for the men---well, Davis has some black marks against him. He does unscrupulous things; he works for – gasp! – a businessman; and he thinks he knows better than Ron Perlman. (He’s also a king-sized jerk, but that never seems to mean much in this context.) On the other hand, he apparently has something going with Ms Cunningham (although oddly, she keeps calling him "Davis"; maybe they forgot that wasn’t his first name); and since we are a million miles from George Romero Land, that alone is probably enough to save his life.

Which leaves ol’ Ron, the original survivor, the raging alcoholic, the flashback king, the Man Who Can’t Forget…. The tenor of the flashbacks indicates that Ron was involved in whatever happened on San Miguel; also, that he may have abandoned some of his companions to their fate. So I’ll say that Ron will redeem himself by sacrificing his life so that Davis, Kelsey and Tara can get away (the two-person life-raft notwithstanding).

Right. The bets are placed. Let’s play.

The first thing we learn is, I was wrong. Or rather, premature. As Deutsch and Kelsey debate searching for "the pilot", there is a sudden thrashing in the bushes and they see him – lying on the ground, screaming, before being dragged away by something. Again. The other two turn and run in the opposite direction, also screaming. Meanwhile, the rescue party lands, and Kovacs sets up his equipment on the beach. Brodie starts handing out guns, ordering the others not to "separate from the group for any reason". They obey as you might expect, straggling along and generally wandering off in any direction that catches their fancy. Eddie finds the bleached bones of an animal, apparently a gazelle; while Tara discovers a human skull that has two bullet holes in it. (Like much of this story, this is never explained.) This is followed by a rash of flashily edited POV shots, and glimpses of things moving through the bushes. Brodie fires wildly, triggering a heated argument between himself and Davis. We are then given a clear look at two baboons running from their kill, a boar; while more of the creatures are seen ransacking the downed plane. The team then stumbles over the dead boar. Amusingly, Tara is much more upset by this than she was by the discovery of the human skull. Kovacs carries out his "thermal re-con", and reports ominously that whatever "they" are, there are dozens of them. After some aimless wandering, and much distinctly unfunny whining from Kelsey, our rescue-ees end up back where they started, at the plane. Becoming aware that something is out there, a panicked Kelsey fires a flare gun – revealing that she and Deutsch are surrounded…. The others see the flare and head towards it. Brodie then storms in, firing directly at Kelsey and Deutsch – but not hitting them. Good work. A large baboon sits obligingly on the top of the plane, waiting for Brodie to get it in his sites. (From the exchange of eye contact, we gather that we’re meant to infer that the two had – "met before"….) He does, and shoots it dead.

Davis intervenes, demanding to know whether Brodie has "lost his mind" (eh?). The two men start facing off, exchanging I’m in charge! speeches. (I’d like to think that, in context, the "alpha male" fighting between Brodie and Davis was intended ironically; but I guess that was a piece of texturing beyond the creative scope of the makers of Primal Force.) Brodie drops still more Ominous Hints, saying that the apes are out there "getting organised"; that they will try to kill the whole party – "that’s what they’ve been bred for". Davis waves all this aside, announcing that "unless it’s related to my mission, I don’t wanna hear it!" (did I say a king-sized jerk? – I was being generous), while Tara insists that neither Kelsey nor Deutsch is in a fit state to go any further that night. How they suddenly got into such a state, when they’ve been wandering around for hours with no ill-effects, remains a mystery. (And frankly, if either of them put half as much energy into leaving as Kelsey does into whining, or Deutsch does into sweating, they’d’ve been off the damn island hours ago.) In any case, Brodie is overruled, and they all make camp for the night. Tara then whips out a handy laptop computer with internet access (no medical kit should be without one), and looks up some Helpful Hints about baboons. We learn that the animals are usually two to three feet high, and weigh about fifty pounds. Why, gasps Tara, the apes they’ve seen must be five feet high and weigh a hundred pounds!

Let’s pause here for a moment, and consider Primal Force’s killer apes. The early section of the film does a good job of concealing them, with lots of swift cutting, POV shots, the occasional close-up of bloody canines. But as the film progresses we see them way too often and way too clearly. Clearly enough to be certain that the depiction of the apes is done primarily through a mixture of stock footage of real baboons mixed with….

You know, Primal Force is inarguably both bad and dumb. Still, I can’t quite find it within me to entirely despise a film that, in this day and age, has the nerve (or should that be chutzpah?) to realise a troop of mutant killer apes by - putting people in monkey suits. Really.

And that isn’t even the real problem! Where the, uh, "effects" fail most is in the script’s insistence on giant baboons, when what we see are nothing of the kind. Director Nelson McCormick tries to get around this with eye-height shots of something moving, and through the use of forced perspective (think the "giant" salmon in Prophecy, and you’ll be on the right track - in more ways than one), but it simply doesn’t work.

Anyhoo, Tara’s remarks allow Brodie to start waxing poetic about his primate adversaries. (This is where we get the dialogue quoted above, which I chose not just because it does as well as anything else in this silly film, but because Ron Perlman’s delivery of the lines "The Egyptians worshipped them for their intelligence – the Greeks just called them ‘Evil’…." sent me off into a loud chorus of "Bad Bad Leroy Brown".) He observes reminiscently that the apes won’t stop – "because they can’t. They’ll try to divert us – split us up – pick off the stragglers…." Which is all well and good, but you can’t help wondering why, if there are so many of the damn things, they don’t just rush this handful of puny humans and rip ‘em to shreds.

Other than the fact that there’s about an hour to go.

Later, after everyone including the posted guards has dozed off, Tara makes her move. She lifts Eddie’s infra-red equipment and sets off into the bushes, carrying with her a flashlight and a photograph, which proves to have a map of the island on the back of it. Told you she had a secret! However – it’s not the one I guessed. Cross another point off my score. The photograph is of a middle-aged man with glasses – and, by jolly! – if he isn’t wearing a lab coat! And is that a rack of test-tubes I see in the background?

So it was Tara’s daddy who did all this. And Tara is, unbeknownst to her, just about to have a Close Encounter with one of her father’s other progeny when Brodie corners her, demanding to know what she’s up to. She tells him to mind his own business – which, like Brodie’s Ominous Hints, serves to keep the film’s less-than-brilliant plot stumbling along for a little while longer.

The next morning, the party sets out. Kelsey tries to take along her "thousand dollar suitcase", ho, ho, ho! – but Brodie puts paid to that. And it’s now that Brodie glances at his watch, sees that we’ve finally hit the halfway mark, and lets his companions, and the audience, in on what’s going on.

And I was wrong again! It wasn’t an Evil Guv’mint Scheme at all! It was something even stupider! – "The Ultimate Game Reserve"!! (Hmm…. I’m sorry, I suppose I shouldn’t say that. I do try to be sympathetic and understanding of other people’s past-times, particularly in light of my own; but I’m afraid the notion of killing for pleasure is one I’ve never been able to get my head around.) Catering to hunters with a great deal of money, the island was illegally stocked with "black market animals". But that wasn’t enough. So the owners of this odd little commercial venture had an idea. "They found a scientist" - (heh! told ya!) – "who was able to genetically enhance the animals to make them harder to hunt – bigger, faster, more vicious." Just one problem: to coin a cliché, the hunters became the hunted. (Go, you genetically enhanced black market animals!! Eat ‘em! Ha, ha! Eat ‘em!! [Ooh….I just went Michael Moriarty all over!]) As for the baboons, well, they were just "lab animals". But they "became insane with the desire to kill". And then they escaped….

All of which raises a rather fundamental question: why haven’t these vicious, "insane" predators been killing off each other…?

Kovacs interrupts Brodie’s cheery recitation with the news that (told ya!) the nervous boat captain has taken off and left them stranded. Davis, Brodie’s words ringing in his ears, deigns to offer his colleague an oblique warning about baboons that "might be dangerous", but does so in a way that encourages Kovacs to simply laugh off the warning. Well, that’s one lot of blood on your hands, Scottie boy!

Suddenly, Brodie decides that the party is "too vulnerable". He leads them across a river and into a rocky, canyon-like area which, if there happened to be anyone or anything around with half a brain, would be the perfect spot for an ambush. And speak of the devil! Who’s that up on the edge? A minor landslide starts, and the humans run further up the canyon. Sweaty Deutsch chooses this moment of all others to try and talk Brodie into taking back his story of the night before, promising him a "cut of the profits" if he’ll help with the sale of the island. Well, so long, Deutsch. Next thing we know, the party is being pelted with rocks. Panicking, the six humans immediately go in six different directions. Kelsey is pursued through the bushes, ends up on a cliff edge over a river (uh, wasn’t she in a canyon a second ago?), and does her best Butch ‘n’ Sundance impersonation. (Next time we see her, she’s pretty much back where she started. Interesting geography, old San Miguel.) Tara is also chased through the bushes and, as she looks back at the apes, brains herself on a tree-branch. In the process, she loses both her radio and her gun. The latter is highlighted with a slow motion shot of the weapon arcing through the air, underscoring the moment’s significance – so it’s a bit surprising when Tara simply picks the thing up and starts blazing away. She doesn’t manage to hit anything though, despite the apes sitting about three feet away from her; and when she runs out of bullets, they close in…. Meanwhile, Sweaty Deutsch has been cornered, and---well, let’s just say it’s finally score one for Lyz!

Elsewhere, Brodie has caught up with Davis, while Eddie collects Kelsey and leads her back to the men. Brodie starts berating everyone for their stupidity (duh!) and lauding the apes’ intelligence. "They split us up!" he shouts. "See? See what happened!?" (Which, if memory serves, was the moment when I started giggling maniacally, while pronouncing, "I always credit my enemy, no matter what he may be, with equal intelligence!" – a line even more insulting to that enemy here than it was when originally spoken.) And just to underscore all of what has happened – Brodie then hears Tara’s shots, and he takes off on his own! There’s no sign of her, however (although we’ve seen her being somewhat unconvincing dragged along by some forced perspective apes), and Brodie votes to abandon her. Davis isn’t having it, however, and another fight starts between the two men, ending when Davis demands, "Is that what happened last time? Did you leave your people?" and Brodie responds with a punch in the face. Reluctantly admitting, "I know where she is!", Brodie then again splits the party up, ordering Kelsey to stay with Eddie and taking off with Davis.

Meanwhile, Kovacs is having an unpleasant time on the beach. Score two for Lyz! The apes also wreck all of his equipment, and the boats.

Brodie and Davis approach the cave in which Tara is being held by the apes, and we see that the two men are doing a little bonding – something which with the male sex, or so I gather, always follows naturally from an act of physical violence. Brodie gives the inevitable, "If I’m not out in---" speech and goes looking for Tara. He finds her easily enough, in a scene that I must say was a huge disappointment to me. I’d made up my mind by this stage that "Daddy" had gone feral and was living with his "children" (just think of the opportunities for "Superior to man in every way!" speeches); and that the reason Tara hadn’t been killed was either that the apes had been sent to "collect" her, or that they’d sensed she was related to "Father". In fact, neither of these scenarios pans out (we eventually gather that it’s "Daddy" who Brodie has been having his gruesome flashbacks about), so why the hell didn’t the apes kill her!? Your guess is as good as mine….

Anyhoo – Brodie rescues Tara, who objects strenuously when she sees he’s about to blow up the cave and kill a great many apes. "They’re developing at an incredible rate!" she protests. "They’re nearly Neanderthal!" Uh, in the first place, all we’ve seen these apes do is kill and caper in circles; I think Neanderthals were a little more advanced than that. In the second place – the hell - !? She’s a doctor, not a biologist! Or an anthropologist! Brodie rightly ignores this peculiar interlude, and rigs a hand grenade to go off after "ten seconds". And so he and Tara escape, the film finally giving us the one thing it’s truly been missing up until now: slow-motion action scenes…. (Man, I’d like to get my hands on the person who decided that "looked cool"….)

A few swift cuts, and the party makes it to the beach. As they discover what’s left of Kovacs, they also discover that the only way off the island is an inflatable life-raft only big enough for two. Kelsey has hysterics here, and in a scene that’s an oddly convincing mixture of childishness and selfishness (just how old is she supposed to be, anyhow?), she promises Davis that her father will "make you rich – anything you want!" if only he can arrange it so she’s one of the survivors. We then get one of the film’s stranger moments, as Brodie pronounces that they’re all going to die – and that "they’ll make it look like an accident, to protect their stock!" For one bewildering moment, I thought he meant the apes; but then he added "Just like they did ten years ago!", and I realised he meant the owners of the island (for whom Sweaty Deutsch was presumably working). Not that this made it any less bewildering. Who were these people, anyway? If they weren’t part of an Evil Guv’mint Conspiracy, how did they cover up what happened? What about the dead hunters? How could you possibly make twenty or so deaths, in a short space of time, all look like accidents?

My brain hurts….

Anyway, Brodie finally admits that the fenced and barbed-wired structure he dismissed earlier as a "storage" area is really Mad Scientist HQ. Duh! They enter the gates, and find they must traverse a broad area of grassland. Naturally, they decide to split up, with the girls being told to "stay here with Eddie". Eddie takes this as a hint to wander off on his own. The inevitable happens, but he is not killed, merely fatally wounded (I’ll hold off on adjusting my score sheet). With Davis helping Eddie along, the four enter the central compound. Tara finds something emblazoned with "Dr Charles Matthews". I guess our resident Mad finally has a name. The four climb up into a communications tower. In between flashbacks, jibes from the others about "leaving in an awful hurry" the last time and doing a bit more manly bonding with Davis, Brodie manages to get the generator going. Meanwhile, Tara has found Daddy’s office. On the desk, covered with about two inches of dirt, is a tape recorder. Beside it, similarly decorated, is an audio tape. Miraculously (doubly miraculously, considering that the tape player seems to run on batteries), it plays. Sure enough, it contains the Last Memoir And Testament of Dr Charles Matthews.

Well, it’s been a long, stupid, and frequently irritating journey, but we’re about to get the pay-off. I quote Dr Matthews’ speech in full here, rather than breaking it up in the Immortal Dialogue section, simply because it’s the kind of insane rant that movie scientists hardly ever get to do these days.

Well – that, and it’s unmitigated tosh….

"My peers in the profession informed me that it would not be possible to breed animals to become more aggressive and predatory. They ostracised me, and called me ‘irresponsible’- ‘too radical’ – banished me from their lofty halls of learning, with a sign around my neck which read, ‘Extremist’! And to them I have but one thing to say: being an extremist is the only way to discover where the boundaries of what is possible truly lie. Clearly, my tests show that there are no limits to what we could do here. Someone will recognise that what I am doing here is Nobel Prize calibre work! And if they don’t--- Ha, ha! ‘Radical’! They don’t know what ‘radical’ is! I’ll show them ‘radical’! ‘Radical’ is their way of drawing a line between themselves and what they cannot comprehend. They have no concept of the courage it takes to tap into the primal fear of another living creature – turn it into a force of fury – with one pure purpose: to survive at all costs! No bother with the social order of the group! No bother with the thousands of needless minutiae that clutter up our life! – wife, children, family, friends…. Imagine the pureness in that! By increasing the DNA strength in these animals, I have accelerated the breeding cycle to a level that Nature itself would never have achieved! I have stared into the face of God! – and guess what? He blinked…."

Proving, if nothing else, that screenwriter Michael Thoma saw Creator at some point in his no doubt misspent youth….

Well, I was going to dissect all of that; but frankly, I’m not sure there’s really any need, is there? I’ll merely point out – simply because, being a scientist, I can’t help myself – that far from being "radical" and "extremist" (I’m not going to argue with "irresponsible"), the idea of breeding animals for increased aggression is not only possible, it’s done every day – and without the need for "genetic enhancement"! I mean, where do you think pit bull terriers get their sunny good natures from? And then there’s Dr Matthews dismissal of the need for "social order", when Brodie has spent the whole film warning his companions of the apes’ ability to organise themselves and work together. And oh, yeah – just what the heck is "DNA strength", anyway…?

As Davis gets communications working, Brodie wanders outside, where he finds the shattered Tara crying. She confesses her woes to him, explaining that she came to the island to find out if her mother had spoken the truth about her father. She further tells Brodie that Dr Matthews didn’t plan to stop at experimenting on animals – that he intended to use the village children as subjects (because, you know, human beings aren’t nearly aggressive enough), giving them "vaccine shots" that were really "a DNA boost". (Yyyeah, nice try, Mr Thoma, but that’s not exactly how this stuff works….)

And with that, Primal Force seems to run out of stupidity, at least for a little while. What follows is a scene that is actually well-written and, believe it or not, has some subtlety to it. (Rising to the occasion, Ron Perlman finally stops idling in neutral.) Following Tara’s lead, Brodie begins to bare his own soul about the past, revealing his memories of Matthews (motto: "If it ain’t broke, let’s fix it anyway"), and his confused feelings about the man and his death ("Son of a bitch left me to live!"). He mourns "all those people I left behind", and promises Tara that, although he couldn’t save the father, "I will save the daughter".

Okay, stupidity-break over! Back to business! Davis manages to contact help, but just as he is about to give their location, the line goes dead. Surprise! We then find ourselves in the grip of a concept that poisons far too many modern science fiction films: the notion that "increased intelligence" somehow equals "increased knowledge" – as was the case with the sharks in Deep Blue Sea, which suddenly "understood" what security cameras were. This concept makes even less sense here, as the baboons have not been "enhanced" for intelligence but, au contraire, aggression. Nevertheless, the animals "understand" that Davis is calling for help; and "understand" also that biting through the antenna will put paid to that.

The humans barricade themselves in as best they can, and Brodie distributes guns, even giving a shotgun to poor Eddie, who’s still bleeding away in the back room. Davis and Brodie exchange more manly glances, and agree to "put the girls in the back with Eddie". Brodie offers them a parting piece of advice: don’t fire unless it’s a kill-shot; words of wisdom that everyone ignores except Eddie, who manages to save Tara’s life, and then carks it. YES!! I mean, uh, how tragic. The apes start breaking in, and Brodie is almost dragged to his doom, but Davis blasts away and sends several apes toppling from the tower. (The sight of stunt people dressed in monkey suits leaping from the scaffolding is one of the film’s highlights.) The humans survive the first wave, but at the cost of all their ammo – and Eddie’s life. Poor Eddie. Just as things seem most hopeless, Brodie has a brainwave. The apes having obligingly withdrawn, the humans set a trap, pouring out drums of gasoline beneath the communications tower, and drawing the apes up into the tower by using as bait the voice of Dr Charles Matthews, and – poor dead Eddie. (Feh! Teach you to be a member of a minority race in a horror film, pal!) The baboons fall for it, and Brodie shuts a security grid, trapping them; but just as Davis is about to sling a lamp and touch off the inferno – he’s jumped from behind!!

And then things get really, really stupid, as first Davis, then Brodie, has a fistfight with a baboon.

This is sincerely one of the most ludicrous invocations of the Death Battle Exemption© I have ever seen. Even an ordinary baboon could rip a human being limb from limb (reminds me….must track down a copy of In The Shadow Of Kilimanjaro….), yet these gigantic, genetically enhanced, insane killers can’t wipe out two who are both exhausted and pre-injured!? But anyway…. Davis is actually coming off second best, and is just about to spoil my scoresheet, when….

"Hey, you son of a bitch! Remember me?" interrupts Brodie. "Cos I sure as hell remember you!"

And yes, the baboon drops the severely mauled Davis and goes for Brodie. Brodie, however, pulls a knife, and after some very silly wrestling with some no doubt hideously embarrassed stunt person, staggers away triumphant. But the other apes are on the verge of escaping the trap. Brodie and David exchange the last of their many, many manly glances, and decide to do what they gotta do. Screaming "Run!!" at the girls (who have just kinda been standing around doing nothing much through all this), Davis sets off the gasoline.

And maybe I was wrong about Kelsey having something going with Davis. Or maybe she’s just a very practical girl. Either way, she doesn’t wait to be asked twice. Tara does lodge a token protest, but as the gasoline goes up and the tower comes down, the two girls head for the hills.

And the woods. And the canyon. And as dawn breaks, the beach, where they find that two-person life-raft and drag it to the water. Ah, well, hadn’t counted on both men sacrificing themselves nobly, but I haven’t done--- But wait! Who’s that, staggering towards them? Yup, it’s Davis, who despite his near-fatal mauling and consequent loss of blood, has somehow managed to outrun the remaining baboons. The two girls stay right where they are, in the water, offering helpful suggestions like, "Hurry!!" but (very sensibly) making no actual effort to help. And yup again, the critically injured Davis out-sprints the genetically enhanced killing machines (lucky for him the baboons seem to have forgotten they can swim….), and is dragged into the inflatable raft, which fits three comfortably, after all. And we get a final glimpse of Brodie as he breathes his last in the middle of the inferno; and that means that he redeemed himself by sacrificing his life so that Kelsey, Tara and Davis could get away!! And that means – I WIN!! I win, I win, I win, I--- I....I....I really need to get a life….

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